Synthetic-auxin herbicides are often used to control woody plants and aid in grassland restoration. Seed-based restoration is common alongside herbicide applications and there may be unintended effects of these herbicides on dryland plants at the seed and seedling stages. Additionally, abiotic conditions at the time of herbicide application may influence herbicide–soil–plant interactions. We conducted a greenhouse study to examine the effects of a common shrub-control herbicide mix and its interaction with soil type and a post-herbicide water pulse on common desert plant seeds and seedlings. In this greenhouse study, we found that a subset of species responded negatively to soil residual herbicide activity of a mixture of aminopyralid, clopyralid, and triclopyr at the seed and seedling stages. Species sensitive to soil herbicide residues were primarily shrub and forb species that are often the target species of herbicide applications for woody plant control, such as honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) and creosote bush (Larrea tridentata). However, two shrub species (four-wing saltbush [Atriplex canescens], soaptree yucca [Yucca elata]) and one perennial grass species (Arizona cottontop [Digitaria californica]), which are used in dryland restoration projects, were found to be particularly sensitive to soil residual herbicide activity. Thus, if using these herbicides to control woody plants and restore herbaceous vegetation via active seeding or relying on the in situ seed bank, considerations should be given to what species are used in the seed mix, what species are already present in the soil seed bank, and other details of the circumstances of herbicide application.
- seed-based restoration
- woody plant encroachment